Gaining weight in winter? Track your metabolism

There is a marginal increase in our metabolism in the winter months as the body works harder to stay warm. This can trigger cravings for rich foods or more food. However, eating indiscriminately and exercising less can lead to unwanted weight gain.

Your metabolic rate is the highest when you wake up and slows down as the day draws to a close. But does the nip in the air spell a speedier metabolism? Especially as we tend to feel hungry and like to munch on something almost all the time during winter? Are there things to keep in mind, even as much of north India is going through a severe cold wave to avoid putting on weight in winter? Read on…

Why do we crave calorie-rich foods in winter?

“The changing seasons have a great impact on the processes of the body, including digestion and metabolism. As the temperature drops, we begin to naturally crave heartier, calorie-dense foods to provide warmth and energy. This can lead to an increase in overall calorie consumption and potentially contribute to weight gain if not managed carefully,” says Dr Manjusha Agarwal, senior consultant, internal medicine, Global Hospitals, Parel, Mumbai.

“In the summer months, higher temperatures can lead to decreased appetite as our bodies expend less energy staying cool. This can result in a decrease in overall calorie intake and potentially impact metabolism. The availability of fresh fruits and vegetables during the summer months can have a positive effect on digestion due to their high fibre content,” she says.

When seasons change, does our brain send signals to our body to increase insulin resistance?

“Seasonal shifts are not a high-ranking factor in increasing insulin-resistance. What impacts metabolism overall is a combination of change in dietary habits, lifestyle, physical activities,” says Madhavi Avate, functional nutritionist.

We feel hungrier during winter, are tempted to eat fresh produce including carrots, green vegetables, and certain seasonal produce. It is easier for us to digest warmer and heavier foods including ghee-laced preparations, makai rotis and more.

Why do we feel hungrier during winter and how does this impact our metabolic rate?

“We feel hungrier during winter because of two major factors: thermogenesis and brown adipose tissue activation,” explains Avate. “During winter, our body may increase thermogenesis, the process of generating heat, in response to cold temperatures. This can slightly elevate metabolic rate as the body works to maintain its core temperature. Our exposure to cold may activate brown adipose tissue – a type of fat tissue that burns calories to generate heat. This process can contribute to increased energy expenditure and a higher metabolic rate.”

Most of us tend to wake up ravenously hungry during this time. Yet this is not necessarily an indicator of a heightened metabolic rate. “Feeling hungry in the morning does not mean you have higher metabolic rate. It is a complex response influenced by various factors. While feeling a little hungry is normal during the daytime, waking up extremely hungry can be caused by different factors such as regularly skipping meals, fluctuations in blood sugar levels, hormonal imbalances, and dietary changes,” says Avate.

Body temperature and metabolism

Shilpi Madan for

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